Sunday, February 03, 2008

Salvation and conversion as imperatives?

Well, it has been a good time of study and interaction on this particular topic of the will of God with regards to soteriology. For one, it has helped me in sharpening my theology to be more in line with Scripture, and for that I am thankful.

Tony Byrne has sortof replied to my assertion regarding God desiring repentance but not salvation in a post here. Although he didn't mention my name, I guess I am probably the only one that make the point he is attempting to refute so anyway, I will respond to the argument.

First of all, I do not know whether Byrne truly understand what I am driving at. Judging by this post, highly unlikely. He quotes various Scripture like Acts 2:40 and Is. 45:22 as proof-texts, and here are the Scripture passages:

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” (Acts 2:40)

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Is. 45:22)

Byrne then states thus:

"Be saved" is a command. One should not say that God commands men to repent but doesn't command men to be saved. He commands both, but to be saved through his gospel terms, i.e., faith and repentance. This should be basic theology, but apparently the point has to be made.

Unfortunately, Byrne here shows a complete misunderstanding of what I am driving at. Here is what I mentioned in a previous post:

Yes, God commands people to repent and be saved, but not to be saved as fiat. Since the fuit of repentance is salvation, it is thus valid to say that God desires people to repent and be saved, but not just merely 'be saved'.

As it can be seen, and if not, I would clarify here, what I am saying is that God desires the repentance of people which leads to salvation, but not the salvation of people per se as a mere stand-alone thing. In other words, God's (preceptive) will for salvation is linked to repentance and would not exist without His desire for the repentance of all Man. How this would fits in with the idea of God's commands and desires would be expounded later, but suffice it is for the moment to say that Byrne has not understood my position.

The two verses have been quoted by Byrne in his post have incidentally been quoted by me (or the context of these two verses) to make the point that God desires repentance and not salvation per se, which can be seen in that previous post of mine. Byrne colored the words 'be saved' in the NKJV version of these two verses, but the problem is that he still doesn't get it. In Is. 45:22, the first three words are 'turn to me', with the result being 'and be saved', which therefore proves that God desires repentance and the salvation that comes along with it, not just 'be saved' being a naked imperative on its own. Acts 2:40 is preceded by verse 38 which I have quoted in my previous post and shows that the call to repentance precedes any talk about salvation, and it thus have the same solution as Is. 45:22. Nowhere is it stated that salvation and conversion are naked imperatives which can stand alone apart from the desire of God for their repentance. So no, God does not command Man to repent and to be saved, but God commands Man to repent and be saved; God does not command repentance and salvation, but commands repentance unto salvation. Notice the difference and see that the question is not merely one of semantics but whether salvation is commanded as a stand alone act and not rather as the result and fruit of a singular command of repentance.

Now, of course, how then is this to be understood as to the commands and desires of God? Let us look from God's viewpoint at any sinner, elect or reprobate. God's holiness neccesitates the wrath of God against the sinner who lives in rebellion against Him, which is due to his/her falling short of the standard and glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Rom. 2:6-10 as a restatement of the principle of the Covenant of Works, as applied in its context shows that God's desire for repentance in Rom. 2:4 means that He wills that Man follow and conform to His standards which if absolutely followed would give them life (which of course only Jesus could do). Therefore, when the sinner repents and turn to God, this makes him/her more in line with the standards of God so to speak and therefore God desires that such repentance be done as a godly virtue. It is in such a setting of God being the Judge that such a desire for salvation is said, in the sense that repentance is pleasing to God and the fruit of it (salvation) is therefore pleasing to Him.

We can thus see that the desire of God for repentance unto salvation is therefore only at the level of works/judgment and at the level of the "preceptive will". It thus is a manifestation more of the character of God then what God truly desires as persons. The term salvation also, like it or not, is intricately linked with the Covenant of Grace where God saves His people and them only, and it is on this basis that I maintain that God desires repentance but not salvation. Repentance is always linked to what we are to do and thus is easier linked to the idea of precept. Of couse, technically, we can say that God desires the salvation of all Man insofar as that desire is just a reflection of a fruit of a precept based on the Covenant of Works, but that would just obfuscates matters and redefine words and concepts differently from how almost anyone uses the terms 'salvation' and 'desire', and therefore I reject such a redefinition.

It is therefore using such reasoning which informs the statement that God desires repentance unto salvation but not repentance and salvation. By equivocating between the different senses of God "preceptive will" and decretal will with respects to the words 'repentance' and 'salvation', not to mention the general denial of the Covenant of Works, the irrational Neo-Amyraldian system is bred which creates a blatent contradiction in God as He is made to desire two contradictory things (salvation of all Man, non-salvation of some Man) in either two wills or the same one will in a two-fold manner. And it is such nonsense we reject, for we can see its evil fruits as it either breeds irrationality and misology as seen in the so-called "moderate Calvinists" today on one side, or it leads to the heresy of any form of semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism on the other. Or it could of course lead to true Hyper-Calvinism as people see their irrationality and therefore throw away the idea of the unconditionality and universality of the Gospel offer. All three ways are bad, and it is my contention that the failure to follow Scripture and rightly divide the Scriptures may be a cause in the rise of Hyper-Calvinism as thinking people will not just accept the irrationalism of the Neo-Amyraldians. God made us rational beings to think logically, and God's reasoning IS logical reasoning; in fact, He is Logic (Jn. 1:1), and it is time that the Neo-Amyraldins realize it instead of shouting 'rationalism' whenever anyone denies their irrational theology.

Lastly, Byrne should note my analogy regarding the desire to eat ice-cream. Frame's argument that if God desires the effect means He desires the consequence is a logical fallacy. Much as Frame is a brilliant seminarian professor, he is wrong here as he does not rightly divide the Word of God in this work of his. Being a disciple of the irrationalist Cornelius Van Til with his ideas of analogy definitely didn't help of course. As seen in the quotation of Frame's work, Frame's starting point is too human and seem to suggest that since humans have many desires that can be frustrated, God similarly has the same problem. Where this axoim of his (which actually undermines the omnipotence and sovereignty of God) is substantiated in Scripture of course is nowhere seen. Rather, once we realize that God's "preceptive will" is not a true will but rather a reflection of the character of God and therefore what God delights in rather than what God actually desires to do (decretal will), and that Scripture indicates God does all He pleases (Ps. 115:3, 135:6), then the problem is easily solved. As I have repeated many times, just as desiring to eat ice-cream does not imply that one desires to be fat, inferring that just because God desire repentance means that He desire that all Man be saved is a logical fallacy.

In conclusion therefore, it can be seen that Byrne's and the Neo-Amyraldian point is still not made. God DOES NOT in any way reformed desires the salvation of all Man without exception. Using such language is careless at best, and unbiblical at worst. It is sincerely hoped that the Neo-Amyraldians stop projecting unfulfilled wishes into the affections of God and leave them where they rightfully belong — in the commands of God as a reflection of His holiness and character.

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